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Boundary Disputes: Frequent Questions

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 18 Jun 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Neighbour Boundary Dispute Trees Fence

We often hear about boundary disputes between neighbours, and it’s a very contentious area which is often the subject of litigation.

What is a Boundary and How is it Defined?

A boundary between your property and your neighbours (or indeed council and common land) is usually set out in the earliest conveyance deed or transfer deed that refers to the land. If you own the house, you should have been given a copy of the deeds when you bought the property.

The deeds show the boundaries of the land that the person who sold the property to you was intending to sell. The description could be written into the deeds, or most usually described by a visual plan of the land.

Sometimes the plan and the wording of the deeds might differ, but this problem can usually be resolved. Reading the deeds and looking at the plan will give you an indication of which takes precedence, and if it’s not obvious, a solicitor can usually help.

If either the conveyance plan or the words in the deed are obviously inaccurate, this can cause problems, too. If you have any questions, a solicitor can usually help, although in some cases these cases have to be resolved in court.

Establishing Rights Over Hedges and Fences can often be the source of bad feeling between otherwise friendly neighbours.

Can I Paint my Neighbours Fence?

If you want to change anything about a fence that legally belongs to your neighbour, you should ask their permission first – even if you’re only painting or staining your side of the fence.

Your neighbour is perfectly within his or her rights to tell you that he doesn’t want you to paint the fence, even if in your opinion in sorely needs some tidying up. It could be classed as criminal damage if you were to carry on regardless.

Can I Force My Neighbour to repair a Damaged Fence?

Not usually, unless there is some kind of covenant on his property that forces the issue. If the state of his fence is bothering you or causing security issues, there is no reason why you shouldn’t erect a fence of your own next to it.

You could offer to pay for the repairs yourself, if the neighbour simply can’t afford the repairs. If you do this, be sure to put the offer in writing and say that fence is a gift which doesn’t affect the boundary position at all. Keep a copy of your letter with the title deeds, to avoid any boundary confusion in the future.

If you put your own fence up on your own land, you need to be careful not to damage any of your neighbour's property, and make sure it fits in with all the relevant planning permission and byelaws.

Overhanging Trees

Another contentious area between neighbours is the problem of overhanging trees and Ascertaining Your Rights. What seemed like an average sized tree when you moved in could become a nuisance if it grows tall enough to block out your light, and this could mean that you have problems with your own garden as well as reducing the light in the house. You can’t do much about it until the trees start to encroach onto your land, though.

What to Do About Nuisance Trees

If the branches or roots of your neighbour's trees are starting to encroach onto your own land, you are allowed to trim them back to your own boundary.

You don’t have to tell your neighbour that you’re doing this, although you do have to tell them if you need to gain Access To Their Land. Contrary to popular belief, you can also trim a tree that’s subject to a preservation order, although you should get permission from your local authority first.

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Green - Your Question:
The responsibility of a boundary fence belongs with both neighbours. Neighbour 1 put up a tall fence on their property, and the boundary fence was later removed by the deceased husband of Neighbour 2 (so Neighbour 1 could’ve given permission even).Neighbour 1 now requires Neighbour 2 to replace the section of the boundary fence that was removed without authority or permission and reinstate it to the original specifications using the same materials, and reminded them that removing any of their property with the intention of permanently depriving them of it is an offence.1) Is there a time frame that complaints about the removal of a shared fence must be made in?2) Do they have to put it back to the original specification bearing in mind the original fence was built more than 25 years ago3) How can a fence be put back onto the correct side of the concrete posts (which are still standing) when Neighbour 1's fence is now in the way?

Our Response:
There are no specific yes or no answers to your questions unfortunately. If two neighbours are jointly repsonsible for a boundary fence they are expected to work together/cooperate to maintain it etc. The property deeds may give some more detail on this but usually they simply refer to owners being jointly responsible. Mediation/alternative dispute resolution might be the best option here.
ProblemNeighbours - 19-Jun-18 @ 2:14 PM
The responsibility of a boundary fence belongs with both neighbours. Neighbour 1 put up a tall fence on their property, and the boundary fence was later removed by the deceased husband of Neighbour 2 (so Neighbour 1 could’ve given permission even). Neighbour 1 now requires Neighbour 2 to replace the section of the boundary fence that was removed without authority or permission and reinstate it to the original specifications using the same materials, and reminded them that removing any of their property with the intention of permanently depriving them of it is an offence. 1) Is there a time frame that complaints about the removal of a shared fence must be made in? 2) Do they have to put it back to the original specification bearing in mind the original fence was built more than 25 years ago 3) How can a fence be put back onto the correct side of the concrete posts (which are still standing) when Neighbour 1's fence is now in the way?
Green - 18-Jun-18 @ 2:31 PM
K - Your Question:
Hi, we got our boundary checked by a surveyour to see where we could put our gate on the side of our house between our house and my neighbours extension. No dispute or anything, we just needed the gate up. Do we need to tell buyers we had this checked even though our neighbours have no issue?

Our Response:
You could include the information on the sellers questionnaire for the benefit of the buyer if you decide to sell.
ProblemNeighbours - 6-Jun-18 @ 2:44 PM
Hi, we got our boundary checked by a surveyour to see where we could put our gate on the side of our house between our house and my neighbours extension. No dispute or anything, we just needed the gate up.Do we need to tell buyers we had this checked even though our neighbours have no issue?
K - 5-Jun-18 @ 9:05 PM
My neighbour is often complaining about a holly tree at the end of our garden - we had it drastically cut back and he has permission to cut overhanging branches -he did and threw all the cuttings over to our garden stuck in between our shedand his garage wall without telling us - he’s now demanding again we get someone in to trim the branches (there are two) and we have this booked but he’s now insisting Amy damage to his garage roof we will need to pay for as last time it cost him £3k to fix (he’s an alcoholic and this figure keeps changing and he built the garage himself and I doubt it cost him that much to build it!).Again I’ve given him permission to cut the two branches before the tree guy can get there- as I’ve done this would I still be liable to damage by the branches? I don’t think they even touch his roof.Incidentally he built the garage taking down his garden wall (to our left) and we know have this large yellow garage as the wall instead of the lovely wall boundary that was there - could he have done this legally?We are the last of the neighbours that talk to him civilly but this is soon to stop!
Rozzie - 2-Jun-18 @ 9:30 AM
My neighbour is often complaining about a holly tree at the end of our garden - we had it drastically cut back and he has permission to cut overhanging branches -he did and threw all the cuttings over to our garden stuck in between our shedand his garage wall without telling us - he’s now demanding again we get someone in to trim the branches (there are two) and we have this booked but he’s now insisting Amy damage to his garage roof we will need to pay for as last time it cost him £3k to fix (he’s an alcoholic and this figure keeps changing and he built the garage himself and I doubt it cost him that much to build it!).Again I’ve given him permission to cut the two branches before the tree guy can get there- as I’ve done this would I still be liable to damage by the branches? I don’t think they even touch his roof.Incidentally he built the garage taking down his garden wall (to our left) and we know have this large yellow garage as the wall instead of the lovely wall boundary that was there - could he have done this legally?We are the last of the neighbours that talk to him civilly but this is soon to stop!
Rozzie - 31-May-18 @ 3:31 PM
My neighbour is often complaining about a holly tree at the end of our garden - we had it drastically cut back and he has permission to cut overhanging branches -he did and threw all the cuttings over to our garden stuck in between our shedand his garage wall without telling us - he’s now demanding again we get someone in to trim the branches (there are two) and we have this booked but he’s now insisting Amy damage to his garage roof we will need to pay for as last time it cost him £3k to fix (he’s an alcoholic and this figure keeps changing and he built the garage himself and I doubt it cost him that much to build it!).Again I’ve given him permission to cut the two branches before the tree guy can get there- as I’ve done this would I still be liable to damage by the branches? I don’t think they even touch his roof.Incidentally he built the garage taking down his garden wall (to our left) and we know have this large yellow garage as the wall instead of the lovely wall boundary that was there - could he have done this legally?We are the last of the neighbours that talk to him civilly but this is soon to stop!
Rozzie - 31-May-18 @ 11:27 AM
Jenny - Your Question:
Our neighbour has put up a new wooden fence but has not taken his old tatty wire fence down and metal posts which is an eyesore and leaning into our garden. We’ve asked him nicely if we could remove it but he said we can’t as it’s his boundary line and still his property! There’s about a foot gap, in between the two fences which have weeds etc. What are our rights please?

Our Response:
If it's the boundary fence - the neighbour doesn't have to remove it. Check your deeds to see if either resident is responsible for maintaining a fence on the boundary etc.
ProblemNeighbours - 14-May-18 @ 2:00 PM
Our neighbour has put up a new wooden fence but has not taken his old tatty wire fence down and metal posts which is an eyesore and leaning into our garden. We’ve asked him nicely if we could remove it but he said we can’t as it’s his boundary line and still his property! There’s about a foot gap, in between the two fences which have weeds etc. What are our rights please?
Jenny - 14-May-18 @ 8:01 AM
nigs - Your Question:
Hi, I am having problems with my neighbour parking on my driveway, it is an open/shared driveway but he parks at an angle so the nose of his car is well over on my side. We have discussed this and I have also given a copy of the original plans signed by the builder and 1st buyer to show that he is on my land, yet he continues to do so. He is retired and therefore is at home alot more than us and uses that as an opertunity to park on our side. I have run out of ideas of what to do now. Any ideas of what to do?

Our Response:
If you've tried everything else and this is causing your an incovenience, you could consider a private legal action. Many solicitors offer the first half hour consultation free of charge so shop around.
ProblemNeighbours - 4-May-18 @ 3:28 PM
Hi, I am having problems with my neighbour parking on my driveway, it is an open/shared driveway but he parks at an angle so the nose of his car is well over on my side. We have discussed this and I have also given a copy of the original plans signed by the builder and 1st buyer to show that he is on my land, yet he continues to do so. He is retired and therefore is at home alot more than us and uses that as an opertunity to park on our side. I have run out of ideas of what to do now. Any ideas of what to do?
nigs - 3-May-18 @ 3:30 PM
My neighbour moved her boundary fence onto my property last year, after asking her to remove it numerous times she refused. Her house is now up for sale. Can I make her move it back and am I in my right to advise potential buyers that there is a boundary dispute
Polly - 26-Apr-18 @ 1:51 PM
Hey guys, I recently bought a house and it is on a main stretch of road. The house comes to a footpath and then there's the road so quite close. My neighbor has claimed ownership of the property surrounding the house up to the wall, so in effect when I go out my back door I have to turn right, I cannot turn left and she has constructed a new build cold house for barrels as it is a pub, less that five inches from my house wall. Then one window looking to the right of the road has a big pub sign in front of it, I asked her to remove as I was led to believe I am entitled to light, she said "NO ITS BEEN THERE FOR OVER 70 YEARS." So I cannot plaster one side of my house which is ancient stone and looks attractive but it is letting in damp, she wont let anyone onto her property to plaster it. Deed maps and land registry maps are very sketchy as it is a very old building. badly need advice. This is in southern Ireland. Thanks everyone
ROCKIE - 25-Apr-18 @ 7:43 PM
Coopy - Your Question:
We live in a terraced house and it appears the wall between us and next door is built approximately a foot on our side which gives them an extra foot of garden. Both house are pebble dashed a different coulour so the middle of the two properties is very easy to see. How can I find out if they have part of our land?

Our Response:
Try checking the deeds first of all...they're not always clear but you may be able to establish whether the wall is offset/ not in the centre of the two properties. You might find the pebble dashing has been done/altered over time by someone unaware of the actual boundary/centre. If the wall has been in place since the construction of the houses, that is very probably the boundary. If it turns out not to be the boundary and has been in place for over 12 years, your neighbours could apply for adverse possession of the extra foot anyway. Is it really worth worrying about?
ProblemNeighbours - 20-Apr-18 @ 3:18 PM
We live in a terraced house and it appears the wall between us and next door is built approximately a foot on our side which gives them an extra foot of garden. Both house are pebble dashed a different coulour so the middle of the two properties is very easy to see. How can I find out if they have part of our land?
Coopy - 18-Apr-18 @ 5:01 PM
Mili - Your Question:
My deeds set out my boundary but indicate hedge between us and neighbour is planted a foot from boundary. Neighbour disagrees and says the hedge is the boundary. They have no evidence but we do. Now thry say that if they tell me hedge is boundary and I dont object in two weeks it is law and she will remove my fence from what is currently my land. Is this allowed?

Our Response:
Is there something there to mark the boundary? Whose side is the hedge planted on? The fence is on the boundary and it's your fence, it's criminal damage for the neighbour to remove this. It sounds as though you need to seek some help from a third party (mediator etc) or a solicitor.
ProblemNeighbours - 3-Apr-18 @ 10:29 AM
The situation is that despite their evidence there is a lot more to it. A lot of the time houses are built differently to plans so physical features and historical evidence should also be factored in. Technically unless you have a determined boundary there is not a lot you can do unless you and your neighbour agree on where the boundary is as there is no right or wrong answer. Unfortunately many buy a home in good faith and there are some vile bullies out there not content with their purchase who will cause misery to others by stealing what they know in their heart of hearts isn’t realistically theirs. If you have a reasonable neighbour point out the history and that despite their survey you have had an as built survey done and collate your evidence from the history on google earth council plans etc and see if you can reach an agreement. If not mediation/civil mediation and ultimately a court would decide and must be very aware of those that instigate disputes and spoil the enjoyment of those who want to live a peaceful and harmonious life.
StopGardenBullying - 2-Apr-18 @ 2:53 PM
My deeds set out my boundary but indicate hedge between us and neighbour is planted a foot from boundary. Neighbour disagrees and says the hedge is the boundary.They have no evidence but we do. Now thry say that if they tell me hedge is boundary and i dont object in two weeks it is law and she will remove my fence from what is currently my land. Is this allowed?
Mili - 30-Mar-18 @ 1:12 AM
I need some advice with regards to the front driveway of my house and the issues I am facing with the neighbours. Currently there is no wall between the two properties separating the drives. On the ground there are bricks laid around the tarmac floor of the neighbour. Looking at the building wall of the neighbour I believe that the bricks are half way theirs and half way mine (width wise). I did not have problem with this before but now my neighbours are parking deliberately on the edge - to the point where if a wall existed they wont be able to open their car doors when parked. I asked them politely to park reasonably to which their response was 'I can park wherever I want on my property'. This has now forced me to have a brick wall erected so that they can stay within boundary. I have spoken to my builder and he agrees with me that half of the bricks (width wise) are on my side. I asked him to build on top of the existing one (on the half) but he says he needs to dig a bit for the foundation otherwise the wall wont be stable. I am not sure what my legal options and rights are. Can I ask the neighbours to move their bricks away so that we could build the foundation? Can we cut the bricks in half so that we can do the work on our side? If we do that and their tarmac is ruined/damaged then are we looking at fixing their side? They are being very problematic so having a clear partition will help with having any further bitterness with me I hope. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
SeekingAdvice - 27-Mar-18 @ 11:20 AM
Zebedy - Your Question:
We recently purchased a detached house and the rear right hand fence as you face House is hours. The neighbour on right has has a few disputes with the person we bought from. Soon after we moved in the neighbour on the right told me that the timber fence is incorrect as the smooth side( support panels on his side ) is on my side when it should be on his. He mentioned this dispute had been going on. I asked my solicitor the position and why it was not disclosed on the form vendor completes on among other things fences and disputes. The reply I got was there had never been an official dispute thus no disclosure. I mentioned this to the neighbour and he is threatening me with litigation suggesting I need to reverse the fence and claim of the previous owner. The fence appears to have been erected over 4 years ago. Please coul£ I have some advice , thank you

Our Response:
Why does your neighbour say the smooth side should be on his side? There is no law that dictates this. You, as the fence owner can choose which side to have facing yours (unless there is something in your deeds which states otherwise - this is unlikely). You can also choose whatever type of fence you want. If it offends the neighbour, there is nothing preventing them from erecting their own fence on the other side of the boundary...or a freestanding trellis etc (they can't attach anything to your fence).
ProblemNeighbours - 20-Mar-18 @ 9:40 AM
lana - Your Question:
My neigbour, planted hedges on the boarder line. He didnt ask me for permission to plant them. on the day of him planting them he didnt invite us, neither he down the 'string' boarder line to make sure none of them will come to my property. when I came out to speak to him - he became very abusive, shoutingm swearing, raising his hand on me and telling to go the crazy house. police was informed and statemnt filed for this case.my concerns on having this hedges is a potential subsidnce issue (as we had many problems before and all due to the trees at my neigbour property.) also the maitance of the hedges from my side - im not willing to take on this job on me. what shall I do? he defently crossed the boarder line.

Our Response:
Does one party have responsibility for maintaining a fence? Are there any restrtictions referred to in the deeds? What kind of hedge has been planted, would they really contribute towards subsidence issues and do you havesurveryor's report to confirm this? Is it really an issue if the border line was crossed by a few centimetres? Could you erect a fence on your side of the boundary to eliminate maintenance and prevent the hedge growing onto your side? Sorry there's not much information provided so it's difficult for us to comment.
ProblemNeighbours - 19-Mar-18 @ 12:00 PM
We recently purchased a detached house and the rear right hand fence as you face House is hours . The neighbour on right has has a few disputes with the person we bought from . Soon after we moved in the neighbour on the right told me that the timber fence is incorrect as the smooth side( support panels on his side )is on my side when it should be on his . He mentioned this dispute had been going on . I asked my solicitor the position and why it was not disclosed on the form vendor completes on among other things fences and disputes . The reply I got was there had never been an official dispute thus no disclosure. I mentioned this to the neighbour and he is threatening me with litigation suggesting I need to reverse the fence and claim of the previous owner . The fence appears to have been erected over 4 years ago . Please coul£ I have some advice , thank you
Zebedy - 18-Mar-18 @ 12:05 AM
My neigbour, planted hedges on the boarder line. He didnt ask me for permission to plant them. on the day of him planting them he didnt invite us, neither he down the 'string' boarder line to make sure none of them will come to my property. when i came out to speak to him - he became very abusive, shoutingm swearing, raising his hand on me and telling to go the crazy house. police was informed and statemnt filed for this case. my concerns on having this hedges is a potential subsidnce issue (as we had many problems before and all due to the trees at my neigbour property.) also the maitance of the hedges from my side - im not willing to take on this job on me... what shall i do? he defently crossed the boarder line.
lana - 16-Mar-18 @ 12:03 PM
Dismayed - Your Question:
My neighbours have been granted planning permission to to build a two story extension the second floor will block our view and some of our light we have had a right to light survey done but will not lose enough light to get it stopped,the downstairs part will form the boundary between us if we do not agree to a party wall agreement can we stop their builders coming on our property to erect the wall l have read that the surveyor can insist we let them by something called legal trespass.

Our Response:
No, "legal trespass" does not mean it's legal to trespass. If someone trespasses on your property you can take action in the civil courts for damages etc. To gain access for this work (if you refuse), your neighbour may resort to applying for a court order under the Access to Neighbouring land - but these are usually only granted for essential repairs and maintenance. See our guide to yourRights under the Access to Neighbouring Land Act
ProblemNeighbours - 7-Mar-18 @ 2:08 PM
My neighbours have been granted planning permission to to build a two story extension the second floor will block our view and some of our light we have had a right to light survey done but will not lose enough light to get it stopped,the downstairs part will form the boundary between us if we do not agree to a party wall agreement can we stop their builders coming on our property to erect the wall l have read that the surveyor can insist we let them by something called legal trespass.
Dismayed - 6-Mar-18 @ 12:50 PM
I've a bracken fence on my property at front near the neighbours. As we have asked for a colourbond fence they agreed over 9-10 yrs back, but have back on their word soon after we removed conifers there. She wasn't happy do led from bad to worse situations. But before Xmas the husband hedged the plants as he does perhaps once a year. Grow to over 2 metres and messy. Always trespassed told him once but ignored continues towards end leaves a mess. But particular time he was hedging I was in and out this day. Came home and I was vocal look at my fence to my husband. Noticed he had removed up to 2 tall steel pickets from my fence. Which I know the rule he should fix. Told his wife already a week ago. She says why would he do that?? I can't go around as she screams if you walk past touch her lawn. As I got out of a car once in front with our caravan in tow on the kerb verbal obuse. So can you give me suggestions please. Thanks Marg
Marg - 23-Feb-18 @ 10:59 AM
Have had the same neighbours for nearly ten years. Do not agree with her values but have always kept the peace. However she had chickens which were in really squalid conditions and winter was coming. Told her if she did not address this I would contact RSPCA. Wasn`t addressed, RSPCA visited twice and now no chickens! She has now put up 2 meters of split bamboo screening on her side of the boundary fence which is mine to which she has stapled(on my side)black membrane, similar to that used by gardeners under gravel etc. as a weed suppressant.My fence is about 4 feet high with about 18 inches of trellis so her monstrosity towers over it.I am intending to replace my fence and obviously want to hide hers but as 2 metres is the highest allowed without planning which will cost me nearly £200 I dont know what to do. Advice from anyone would be very welcome.
lizzy1 - 7-Feb-18 @ 6:25 PM
Sam - Your Question:
My neighbour's house is for sale. and ever since weve lived here (3 years). There has been a massive conifer in her garden. it over hangs ours and we have trimmed it in the past. Its massive and wreaking our fence and blocking our light. should her estate agents tell potential buyers that we have asked for her to have it cut to a manageable hight? But she so far has not.Thanks.

Our Response:
It's not the responsibility of the estate agent to tell potential buyers about this. The seller however, will be required to answer specific questions as part of the sellers information questionnaire, sodepending on the nature of the question, the tree or the neighbour "dispute" may come to light.
ProblemNeighbours - 26-Jan-18 @ 11:07 AM
My neighbour's house is for sale... and ever since weve lived here (3 years). There has been a massive conifer in her garden... it over hangs ours and we have trimmed it in the past. Its massive and wreaking our fence and blocking our light.. should her estate agents tell potential buyers that we have asked for her to have it cut to a manageable hight? But she so far has not. Thanks.
Sam - 24-Jan-18 @ 10:03 AM
A new neighbour has moved in next door and they have made their intentions clear that they intend to widen their driveway at the front of the property. The issue I have with this is that the street is open plan and there is no fence, wall or hedge indicating a boundary. We have a front lawned area that I have maintained for almost 18 years that finishes at the edge of the current paved driveway of the neighbours. If the driveway is widened the edge will take approx 2.feet off the lawn. Whilst I can understand their reasoning for this, because they are assuming a theoretical straight line from a dividing boundary fence at the rear can they just make alterations like this. Because if this is the case and they can just alter the existing layout. Does this mean I can apply the same rule and take back the 2 foot of land from my neighbour on the other side of my property where the same layout applies? Which would no doubt upset my long standing neighbour. How do I stop this from happening before the changes are carried out? Another question, can I now erect a fence at the front of my property now the houses have been up since 1995?
Dazza - 21-Jan-18 @ 10:19 AM
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